Do you need Wi-Fi for a card reader to work?

We are becoming an increasingly cashless society. More and more people are utilising contactless card payments, which means fewer people carrying around physical cash to spend in stores. Therefore, any business that does not cater to people wanting to pay with plastic is likely to miss out on crucial revenue.

However, many small businesses, especially those that operate remotely, are liable to have some concerns around the practicality of implementing contactless payment systems. You need your payment machine to be able to communicate effectively and reliably to process payments round the clock, which leads many to believe that without a Wi-Fi connection, they are all but redundant.

But this is by no means the case.

The power of Bluetooth.

Bluetooth was regarded as the technology of the future in the early 2000s, but many seem to believe that it has subsequently been usurped by 3G, 4G and city-wide Wi-Fi hotspots. However, Bluetooth still plays a huge role in allowing many businesses to operate.

To get a better understanding of how the card payment process works, let’s break it down into four manageable chunks:

  1. The first stage is the customer inserting (or placing) their card into the payment machine. Depending on the payment method this could require the need for a signature, the entering of a pin code, or nothing at all. However, regardless of the method, the result is the same; the payments end up being sent to a point of sale (POS) application.
  2. This POS application then sends the data to the merchant (Visa or Mastercard, for example) to be verified.
  3. The bank then determines whether there is enough money in the customer’s account to commit to the purchase.
  4. The bank then reports back to the merchant, and the transaction can be completed.

All of this happens almost instantaneously, and usually takes no more than a couple of seconds. However, the crucial aspect is that Wi-Fi is not required. If you have a mobile device or a tablet that is 3G, 4G or 5G enabled, you can use Bluetooth to connect the contactless payment device to the app.

Of course, if you have Wi-Fi available then it could well speed up the payment process but using 3G or 4G with a Bluetooth-enabled payment device will not hamper your ability to make sales. So, in conclusion a mobile phone (with the right app) and a Bluetooth payment device are all you require to operate in a Wi-Fi-free area.